When NHL Central Scouting released its preliminary "Ones to Watch" list of the top North American skaters Nov. 17, just two NCAA freshmen -- Michigan forward Phillip Di Giuseppe and Wisconsin defenseman Jake McCabe -- were projected to go in the top two rounds.
That's no surprise; as we pointed out recently, the majority of future NHLers playing college hockey are drafted well before they ever hit campus.
Nonetheless, several more student-athletes could end up being early round picks and/or make it to the world's best league one day. Here are five draft-eligible collegians you'll want to keep an eye for the rest of the season.
Phillip Di Giuseppe, LW, Michigan (CCHA)
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Maple, Ontario product has had little trouble adapting to the physical scholastic game, where he's facing players up to six years his elder. After registering 63 points in 49 games as a 17-year-old in the Ontario Junior Hockey League last season, Di Giuseppe -- who didn't turn 18 until Oct. 9 -- leads the Wolverines with seven goals in 16 matches. The fast start was good enough to earn him a coveted tryout for Team Canada's entry at this month's World Junior Championship; Insider's own Grant Sonier believes Di Giuseppe has a legitimate chance of making the cut. Even if he doesn't, the CCHA's rookie sensation could still be the lone NCAA player taken in the first round in Pittsburgh.
To see the rest of the top five list and get some additional updates from the U.S. high school ranks and more key injuries to top junior standouts, you must be an ESPN Insider